WASHINGTON – President Biden’s allies say that with the distraction of his predecessor’s impeachment trial now over, he will quickly push for passage of his $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan before moving on to an even bigger agenda in Congress that includes infrastructure, immigration, crime justice reform, climate change, and health care.
Mr Biden has so far managed to push his agenda forward, even in the midst of the impeachment, trial and acquittal of former President Donald J. Trump. House committees are already debating parts of the coronavirus relief legislation that it calls the US bailout. Several members of the president’s cabinet have been confirmed despite Trump’s tragedy. And Mr Biden’s team is pressuring lawmakers to act quickly when senators return from a week’s vacation.
Without the spectacle of a constitutional clash, the new president “now takes center stage in a way that the first few weeks did not allow,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who served as President Barack’s communications director. Obama. She said the end of the trial means “2021 can finally begin”.
In a post-trial statement, Biden reaffirmed his hopes for bipartisan support, vowing to work across party lines to “heal the very soul of the nation.” But Mr Biden’s outlook is complicated by the fact that much of his agenda is aimed at dismantling Mr Trump’s policies or addressing what Democrats have called failures, the most important being the clumsy response. to the pandemic.
And Republicans’ 43 ‘not guilty’ votes in the Senate on Saturday highlighted both the political opportunities and the challenges ahead for Mr Biden: a small minority of Republican senators willing to brave the wrath of Trump’s powerful political movement. by voting to condemn him, as Mr. Trump continues to dominate most of his party.
The reality is that Mr. Trump’s influence with Republicans will be an obstacle to Mr. Biden’s priorities even with the former president’s departure from Washington. Even with control from both houses of Congress, Democrats will still need Republican support on many items on Mr. Biden’s agenda to overcome a Senate filibuster.
“Trump will certainly continue to be a force within the Republican Party. They have to decide whether or not they are captive to this, ”said Winnie Stachelberg, executive vice president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “President Biden has the well-being of the American people at the center of his concerns. He will not be derailed and distracted from this primary mission, no matter what former President Trump does as a side spectacle.
In recent days, senior members of Mr. Biden’s team have started internal meetings at the White to discuss what the next phase of his agenda will look like and how it will be deployed, according to two senior White advisers. Some of that could be revealed publicly in March, when Mr. Biden is expected to deliver a joint address to Congress, as is traditional in a president’s first year in office.
Administration officials acknowledge that there will now be more public attention on Mr Biden, a reality they plan to capitalize on earlier this week with the president’s first substantive trip outside of Washington. Biden will attend a city hall-style event on CNN Tuesday in Milwaukee and travel to another part of the country on Thursday, officials said.
“There will be more spotlight on this than last week for understandable reasons,” said Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary. “Now he can return to a focus on the president’s agenda of putting relief in the hands of the American people.”
Public polls show that the president’s agenda is widely popular, even among some Republicans. This has contributed to pressure from Progressive Democrats to forgo any compromise with Republicans that might water down Mr. Biden’s policy proposals. And Republicans – who are still adjusting to their loss of the Senate and the White House – have yet to come together around a consistent, fundamental attack on the president’s agenda.
“He might be able to rally the country more to his side when it comes to supporting the agenda due to the lack of a coherent Republican argument,” Ms Palmieri said of Mr Biden.
But with razor-thin margins in Congress, the president’s hopes of quickly enacting an ambitious agenda are more likely if he can count on at least Republican support. And Mr. Trump’s grip on the party hangs over the prospect of bipartisan cooperation.
During the first 24 days of Mr. Biden’s presidency, Mr. Trump has been a constant presence – not on the Twitter account that is banned from using, but as a target of impeachment for inciting an insurgency in order to prevent its own foreclosure. Journalists camped in Palm Beach, Florida, as cable networks broadcast wall-to-wall coverage of the Senate trial that would decide his fate.
Mr Biden has struggled to distance himself from the debate over whether to hold Mr Trump responsible for the Jan.6 riot on Capitol Hill, fearing that he would lose momentum on his agenda.
Even with the trial over, Mr. Trump doesn’t seem to want to lose his grip on the nation’s psyche. Aides to the former president, Mr. Trump plans to hold a press conference in Mar-a-Lago, his home in Florida, in the coming days. In a statement immediately after the trial ended, Mr. Trump, who expressed interest in running for president again in 2024, hinted that he had no intention of disappearing from TV screens or in the political life of Republicans in Congress.
“Our historic, patriotic and magnificent movement for Make America Great Again is just beginning,” the former president wrote. “In the months to come, I have a lot to share with you and look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people. There has never been anything like it!
Ms Psaki said the president – who flatly declined to comment on the impeachment trial while it was ongoing – was not focusing on Mr Trump. She said that mentions of her comments or activities very rarely came up in private conversations between the president and his aides.
“The political campaign is over,” she said. “He beat Donald Trump. He and we are not looking to re-engage in this battle.
Presidents often continue to refer to their predecessors long after they have abandoned the world’s greatest tyrant chair.
When Mr. Obama took office in 2009, he vowed to put an end to the “cowboy diplomacy” of his predecessor, George W. Bush, and blamed him for the country’s economic difficulties. In 2017, Mr. Trump repeatedly denigrated Mr. Obama’s accomplishments as a means of promoting the change he felt was necessary.
But perhaps more than any previous president, Mr. Biden has used Mr. Trump as an effective political foil, constructing his agenda almost completely as a repudiation of Mr. Trump’s policies and personal behavior during his tumultuous four years in government. power.
Mr. Biden’s first actions on Day One were a series of executive orders intended to overturn many of Mr. Trump’s policies in a single day. And he often presents his broader agenda as the necessary response to actions taken – or not taken – by his predecessor. At the end of last week, he reiterated that Mr. Trump’s administration had left the government with too few tools to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
“What we thought was available, from vaccine to vaccinators, was not,” Biden told a bipartisan group of mayors and governors.
Joe Lockhart, who served as President Bill Clinton’s press secretary, said the most important thing Mr. Biden can do to advance his broad agenda is to be successful in the fight against the pandemic and efforts to fix an economy in trouble.
“Where he will gain political capital is comparing his handling of the pandemic with the disastrous effort of the Trump administration,” Lockhart said. The end of the impeachment trial, he said, “allows people to focus on this.”
The question for Mr Biden is whether he can take advantage of the political leeway to garner support for his proposals. And if he can, will public pressure be enough to persuade Republicans in Congress to counter the influence of Mr. Trump?
Delaware Democrat Senator Chris Coons and a close ally of the president, said Mr Biden will continue to push for bipartisan cooperation on the coronavirus relief bill and other priorities. But he said he was convinced the president would not let the Republican opposition deter him.
“He is moving forward with relief that has the support of three quarters of the American people,” Coons told ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “And from the way he spoke on his inauguration to the actions he took in his first two weeks, he shows us what real presidential leadership looks like, in stark contrast to his predecessor.”